A public works worker died Wednesday while helping clear snow in Buffalo, New York, in what local authorities called a “heartbreaking” accident, confirming the death is under investigation.
The employee, who has not been identified, has worked for the city for decades, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said on press conference where he was joined by Police Commissioner Joseph Gramalha. According to a preliminary investigation, the employee was fatally struck by a high-lift snowplow while backing up around 11:15 a.m., Gramaglia reported.
The worker died at the scene, the police commissioner said.
“We are heartbroken. We are grieving this loss,” Brown said at a press conference, where he called the accident a “terrible tragedy” and called the worker “a very experienced member of our city team.” “a very experienced member of our city family.”
Authorities are conducting a crash investigation to determine exactly what happened to lead to the officer’s death, which will include an examination of the vehicles involved, the police commissioner said. Snow removal operations continue in Buffalo, bringing in nearly 200 “heavy equipment” to clear the snow in south Buffalo and move it elsewhere, Gramaglia explained.
“These are always difficult scenes, and it’s made more difficult when it’s a friend and when it’s someone well-known to those on the scene investigating the accident, as well as co-workers,” Gramaglia said. “So our hearts go out to the family. Our hearts go out to the workers here who worked so hard for days on end. It’s a terrible loss.”
The citywide effort follows last week’s snowstorm, which New York Gov. Cathy Hatchul called “historic” as it potentially dumped a record amount of snow fell in various cities and towns east of Lakes Erie and Ontario. Parts of Buffalo were hit pretty hard by the storm, with the National Weather Service recording 77 inches in Orchard Park, south of Buffalo, on Saturday. The storm was at least the worst since November 2014, when seven feet of snow fell in some areas south of the city, causing extensive damage to homes and buildings.